Carolina Ale House brings a quintessential sports bar atmosphere to the commercial center that is the Augusta Exchange. With indoor and outdoor dining areas and full bars, the restaurant is lively and inviting. Whether you're looking for a casual place to catch a game or a stimulating environment for a meal, this place appeals to sports fans and food fans alike.
When you walk inside, it's sensory overload. Sports paraphernalia is everywhere -- pictures on the walls, flags and banners hanging from the ceiling, pompoms and signs in every direction. The displays support most of the local teams we would root for in Augusta -- Georgia Bulldogs, South Carolina Gamecocks, Georgia Tech, Atlanta Thrashers, Falcons and Braves, to name a few.
But the distractions don't stop there. In the rare moments when you can take your eyes off the chaotic array of colors and shapes around you, looking at the menu can be its own daunting task. The choices are endless. Sure, the appetizer section lists typical bar food, such as chicken wings, nachos and quesadillas, but then it throws a few curve balls -- like fried pickles and crispy Maine calamari.
As far as American fare goes, Carolina Ale House covers all the bases with salads, sandwiches, burgers, steaks, ribs and pizza on the menu. But again, the little twists and surprises make the options more special.
I went there for lunch when the weather first started to get chilly. That always puts me in the mood for something warm and comforting to facilitate a relaxing day off. I knew that if I didn't go in there with a game plan, I'd be waffling all day on my meal choice. So, I had already decided I wanted a turkey burger before I headed out on my lunch date.
Having set my strategy, I was willing to put up with what I expected to be the normal turkey burger experience. Some restaurants offer an entire section of beef burgers with chili, bacon, mushrooms, blue cheese and other exciting toppings. And then there's the plain old turkey burger; cheese is extra.
When I flipped to the burger section of Ale House's menu, I was excited to see more of a "gourmet" rendition -- the turkey burger melt, which is topped with sauteed onions, mushrooms and Swiss cheese. All of this for under $8? Score!
The toppings didn't stop there. My meal came out with fresh lettuce, tomato, pickle and raw onion on buns with a thickness that didn't overpower the good stuff in between them.
The contrast between cold crisp veggies and hot juicy patty is my favorite part of the burger experience. The combination of soft, sweet sauteed onions with crunchy raw onions made every bite more interesting.
Turkey burgers can be dry sometimes, but this one was moist and even a bit greasy -- an indulgence that should be consumed in moderation, of course.
Carolina Ale House's main sign and logo are straightforward about what it has to offer -- food, sports and fun. Trust me, there's definitely no shortage of food or sports. And whether I'm in the dining room for a meal or out on the patio for drinks, I always have a good time.